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The Traditional Diwali Pooja

The Lakshmi pooja is the most important aspect of the festival of lights. Read about how it is conducted.

Diwali is referred to as the festival of lights. During this festival, prayers are offered to Lakshmi, who is the Goddess of Wealth. She is asked to bless the household with wealth and bring prosperity in all endeavours for the coming year. In this context, the Lakshmi pooja is the most important ritual performed during Diwali.

Before the Pooja

Before the Lakshmi pooja can be performed, the house must be prepared in order to receive the goddess. Firstly, the entire house is cleaned from top to bottom. In preparation for the pooja, renovations will be carried out and the house may even be freshly painted. To herald the goddess Lakshmi's arrival, the house will be decorated grandly.

The goddess Laksmi is traditionally welcomed into a home by drawing a rangoli at the entrance. Tiny footprints are drawn at the four corners of the rangoli, using rice powder and vermilion (kumkum), to mark her arrival. Although Lakshmi pooja is normally performed in the home, the goddess is worshipped in other ways too. Villagers usually worship their cattle since that is their main source of income. Cows are considered to be the incarnation of the goddess. Hence, in southern India, on this day, cows are adorned with ornaments and venerated.

Preparations for the Pooja

The Lakshmi pooja is generally performed after sunset. However, the actual time for the pooja is set only after consultation with a Pandit. The pooja generally consists of prayers, singing bhajans in praise of the goddess, and giving offerings to her. The most common items required for the Lakshmi pooja are gold and silver coins, uncooked rice, paan leaves, vermilion (kumkum), sweets (mithai), incense sticks (agarbattis), flower petals, dry fruits, icons of the deities, etc.

The Lakshmi pooja is actually a combination of poojas for five deities. Lord Ganesha is always worshipped prior to the commencement of any pooja. Lakshmi is worshipped in three forms. The first form is Mahalakshmi, the goddess of money or wealth. The second form is Mahasaraswati, the goddess of knowledge. The third form is as Mahakali, who is the goddess of good.

Steps of the Pooja

  • The pooja room should be cleaned thoroughly by sweeping it with a broom. Occasionally, a circle is drawn as a boundary, using salt. Each deity (statue or picture) is then bathed with water, to cleanse it. This is followed by bathing it with rose water and then again with water.

  • A tiny clay diya or lamp is kept in front of each deity. The diyas serve a dual purpose. Their primary purpose is to drive away all the shadows of the evil spirits present in the area. At the same time, the diya also represents the awakening of the light of good within each individual.

  • A panchamitra is made using five ingredients including milk, curd, honey, sugar, and clarified butter (ghee).

  • Some sweets (mithai), snacks, and fruits are kept as 'prashad'.

  • The Ganesh aarti is first sung and the Ganesh pooja is carried out. This is because as per Hindu tradition, Lord Ganesh must be first worshipped before any other god or goddess.

  • The first set of offerings consists of flowers, red colour or dye (abir), vermilion (kumkum), and turmeric (haldi). The incense sticks are burnt while the clay lamps are filled with ghee and their wicks are lit.

  • The second set of offerings includes fruits, sweets, salty snacks like ghatia, and some amount of money (often as silver and gold coins) which is termed as Dakshina. The food that is offered during the pooja should either be donated to the poor or thrown out as a donation to the wild animals. Similarly, the dakshina too should be distributed to poor people.

  • Betel leaves (paan) and cloves are offered next. Then, prayers are said to the deities, asking for their blessings.

  • For the Lakshmi pooja, lotus and other flowers are placed at the feet of her statue or picture. A solitary silver coin is kept in front of the deity during the pooja. The Lakshmi aarti is sung, holding flowers in the hand.

  • After the pooja concludes, the prashad is distributed to all the people present at the pooja.

Have you ever performed the Lakshmi pooja during Diwali? Do you know the significance of each step? What preparations do you make before the pooja? To share your views and experiences, click here.

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